Thursday, June 22, 2017

Progression of a Project

I love it when a plan comes together. I love it more when I don't know what I'm doing but fake it and somehow it works out, which is usually the case. The faking-it part, that is. Fortunately for me, plants are so forgiving that it works out most of the time. This blog post is thus the progression of a medium-sized project as it nears completion, the jury is still out whether or not it is successful. A little more work to go, but I hope the end results match the image in my mind. Here we go:


This is the property and home when we bought it in late 2015. The labyrinth is, of course, gone, replaced with a full garden. The edge of the labyrinth, closest to the camera, is the area we'll be looking at.


Here is the labyrinth last April after the rocks were removed, the sand pushed back to allow for the removal of the landscape fabric underneath, and plants beginning to be placed.



This is about August last summer. The labyrinth is the garden area seen in the upper left, the additional space was created when we moved the rocks and began planting meadow plants. The edge of this area still screamed "circle" to me and I wanted to mix it up.


Here it is from the south looking north. The whole garden just sort of ends in field grass, not very interesting.



That's when I had the idea to make it a "step down" and to plant it with fescue and other drought-tolerant scrubby plants as a transition to the surrounding landscape. This photo is from early spring this year with basically nothing emerging. There are many grasses, asters and herbaceous perennials in there. And Hobbes, of course.


My "step down" got a little deeper and wider thanks to Facilities Manager. He mounded the soil on the south side of the swale. I had not thought about putting the soil there, I actually didn't think about it much but he started and the mounds affectionately became the Himalayas. That's assistant FM Sharon, who always seems to be doing some heavy work for us.



OK, I like the change in profile to the land. I just went with it and decided I would create it as I went.


Facilities Manager added chunky gravel to the base of the pit to help keep mud down. He eventually, with the help of friends, added smaller crushed gravel to complete the look.



I still wasn't sure what I would do with the Himalayas. The kitties had their own ideas.



Because the soil used to make the mounds was basically turned-over field grass and the surrounding soil, we needed to solarize or sterilize the soil to kill weed seeds and the grass. We did this by covering the mounds in plastic. I learned after we did this that clear plastic works better as it acts as a greenhouse, trapping sunlight and really heating things up. D'OH! Live and learn. We are really just winging it, after all.


As seen looking towards the west. The soil on the right is the edge of what was the labyrinth. After I took these photos, I cut openings in the plastic and planted a few Arctostaphylos species to get them off to a good start, as well as a few blue fescue grasses. We waited a couple of months until I couldn't stand it any longer and I recently removed the plastic. I probably should have waited a few more months, but . . . I was impatient.


Here it is with the plastic removed and the plants in place. I decided to soften the edges by raking soil down to the gravel so it forms a soft edge. The grassy area between the two mountains of soil will eventually be graded so it slopes down and becomes level with the gravel to make for easy access and a more welcoming feel.


The edges of the labyrinth garden have many low-growing cascading plants that will eventually cover the edges, such as trailing rosemary, Zauschneria or California fuchsia, sedums and others. If we had more resources, I would edge the labyrinth side of the gravel walk in rock to make for a kind of low retaining wall. Maybe another day. I also wish to add flag stones in a meandering pattern to create a very rough and informal walkway, just for fun. I hope to plant more fescue in the gravel, to make it more naturalistic.

As seen from behind, chickens following me. 


This path through the center of the labyrinth will continue down to the vegetable garden someday. For now it ends here and, to the left, there's a step down to the new gravelly area. That design will evolve into a more comfortable solution for getting down there. I'm open to ideas!



Here is one of the berms (and chickens) looking south. In time, as everything fills in, the horizon lines will change.



The view just to the right of the previous photo showing both berms.



Just for fun, here's a shot of the labyrinth as it looks today, same shot as the first photo.

This whole garden, while I do have gardening experience, is really a big experiment. There are no rules, we're making it up as we go and having fun doing it. This latest project, while not complete, will I believe be unusual and interesting when it fills in. If it doesn't work, the worst thing that can happen is that we fill it back in (aaack . . . not really [FM says who said what now?]) and plant grass seed. As it is, however, I think it will connect with the outlying hills and scrubby country foliage and make for a more interesting horizon overall. Are we crazy? A little, but that keeps it fun.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and commenting and happy gardening one and all!




16 comments :

  1. Things are looking really good! I'm always amazed at the progress you've made in such a short time.

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    1. Thank you Joanna! Plants do fill in quickly around here, for that I am most grateful.

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  2. The beginning of magnificence -- great now, going to be amazing someday.

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    1. Aw, thank you Alan! Very kind words indeed :)

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  3. I think it looks great - good idea! : )

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    1. Coming from you, Stephen, that means so much - you have such an incredible artistic eye. Thank you!

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  4. I just love it when a plan comes together. I think it is looking great. Unless you have unlimited funds you can't expect to make everything just so so the first time around and even with that one can always change their mind.

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    1. ooh, me too Lisa. I love it when a plan comes together.

      Yes, you are right, we do not have unlimited funds (until I find that briefcase in the ditch on the side of the road loaded with $100's) and we're having fun playing. Thank you!!

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  5. Crazy? It's just one of many endearing qualities.

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    1. Hee hee..you know best, Rickii - working together at Joy Creek Nursery we learn all of each others' secrets. Hee hee...secret squirrel.

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  6. I remember feeling daunted when you first posted photos of the new property, completely unable to visualize what you could do with all that... endless, mostly undeveloped space. I've only ever worked in gardens needing rehabbing or with a pre-existing skeleton, so a project like this, particularly one you have to live side by side with, could really wreak merry havoc with a more delicate person's constitution. You've laid down the bones of something very special here, the berms and terracing are particularly effective, the pathways soft and natural, even the house looks better for it. Kudos. It's a good marriage between the right plant person, at the right time, with the right experience, and with precisely the right property for developing a garden suited to your sensibilities.

    This seems like a tremendous amount of labor -- and worrying, fretting, and second-guessing, I should think, if it were me -- but you've all made it work so well thus far. I commend you for your courage tackling this head-on AND for your green thumb. Congratulations, truly!

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    1. Gosh, Saurs, I am so grateful for your thoughtful and complimentary comments. This means the world to me, that you related to the daunting task of doing something with this blank slate. Your words are very kind and salve to my soul. I so appreciate it. Thank you thank you, more adventures to come so stay tuned!

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    2. I'm really looking forward to see what you all have in store for us. :)

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  7. It looks really good--it will evolve and change and get more satisfying. It's what happens in gardens when the gardener is dedicated. I just got one little area of my garden somewhat satisfying--it took 17 years--your progress is far more rapid.

    I wonder the Himalayas will eventually settle quite a bit, and be little foothills.

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  8. Complete or not, Tamara, it looks great! The step-down path was a brilliant move - it gives the area verve. It also looks like a huge effort so congrats to your FM and his assistant too. FYI, I made the same mistake using black plastic to solarize the first section of lawn we removed here as well.

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  9. Wow! The garden looks fantastic! Very nice work, folks. Your developments are very inspiring; I hope to follow this path soon, too. Erik

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